6 Tips to Hosting a Successful Webinar

This guest post is by Susan Rubin, marketing campaign manager at Cision.

webinarsPlanning and hosting a webinar is a great way to share your expertise and engage with your audience. Whether you’re new to webcasting or a veteran, we put together six tips to help make your webinar a successful one:

Pick a topic that’s right for your audience
Just because everyone is talking about a topic doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Finding the right subject for your audience can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! Don’t reinvent the wheel; try what I call the ‘MacGyver Method’ and use the resources you have readily available to pick your next topic. Tweet, ask a poll question or do a post-webinar survey probing for topic suggestions. Look at your competitors and similar industry leaders and see what they are talking or writing about, making sure your topic will add value to your audience.

Find a speaker who is engaging – even over the phone
Most webinars have guest presenters who are dialing in from another area of the country. While you may think someone is fun and charming in person, it’s hard to have an engaging conversation with someone when you are speaking through a telephone. If you have a guest presenter who is dialing in, make sure he/she can stay focused, keep things upbeat and keep the conversation flowing with both the co-presenter and the audience.

Stop! And answer questions
Lectures are for college. The purpose of most webinars is to educate the listener on a particular topic. It’s difficult to learn a theory or process if you are stuck on the first step with a question that may or may not be answered at the end of the webinar. In our PR & Social Media webinars at Cision, we take great effort to answer questions throughout our webinars. Whether it’s repeating the name of a blog, app or book we’ve just mentioned or going into detail about how SEO and PR go hand-in-hand, we are happy to stop the conversation to reference the question being asked. If we can’t finish our entire presentation because we have spent too much time answering questions, then we cut it short. Questions are your only interaction with your attendees and in a webinar, your attendees are your customers!

Have a purpose for polling your audience
Remember, the audience is expecting value from you as a webinar host.  So, unless you have a purpose for launching a polling question at your audience, refrain. For example, polling attendees to ask,“Can you hear me?” is not the best use of your audiences’ time. From my webinar experience I have found that if a webinar participant cannot hear, you will know about it in either your chat room or your questions panel. Polling this is not necessary. However, polling attendees and asking, “Where do you spend most of your time (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn)” is useful, because now you know where your audience can be reached.

Don’t wait for late arrivers
A lot of your attendees will sign on to your event within the first few minutes – so don’t penalize everyone who is already on the line by waiting for the stragglers to arrive. At Cision, we sometimes have participants sign in to our webinars up to 20-25 minutes early. My suggestion is to take the first few minutes going over any housekeeping rules and the agenda for the webinar. This will allow any latecomers to sign on without missing the good stuff.

Always follow up
For me – this is the worst offense you could make as a B2B or B2C company. If you cannot get to questions during the webinar, make a point to answer them in a timely manner after the webinar. At Cision, we have a few ways we answer questions depending on the amount of questions we have and the webinar topic. We typically email the attendee directly, write a blog post or publish the Q&A in our LinkedIn group. Despite which method we use, we always let the attendees know we are not leaving them high-and-dry and assure them that we will be following up.

For more webinar tips, download our tip sheet The Wonder of Webinars: How to Execute a Successful Event.



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